Song of Solomon 1:8
If you know not, O you fairest among women, go your way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed your kids beside the shepherds' tents.
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(8) If thou know not.—With this verse one subsection of the poem plainly ends. Most of the supporters of the dramatic theory make Song of Solomon 1:9 begin the second scene of Act I.; and many of them understand this reply to the heroine’s question as an ironical allusion on the part of the court ladies to her low birth. We take it rather as one of the many playful ways in which the poet either recalls or arranges meetings with the object of his passion (comp. Song of Solomon 2:10-14). In the first seven verses he imagines her sighing for him, and in his absence, fancying, as lovers do, causes which might keep them asunder or make him forsake her, such as the loss of her complexion, her abduction into a royal harem; and then in Song of Solomon 1:8 shows how groundless her fears are by playfully suggesting a well known way of finding him.

Song of Solomon 1:8. If thou know not — This is Christ’s answer; go thy way, &c. — Observe and follow the paths which my sheep have trodden before thee, my faithful servants, Abraham and others. For the church in all ages is one and the same, and there is but one way, for the substance, in which all the saints, from the beginning to the end of the world walk, Christ being the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever. Feed thy kids — Take care for the feeding of all, and especially young and weak Christians. Beside the shepherds’ tents — Under the conduct, and according to the instruction of my faithful shepherds, chiefly those who have gone before thee, the prophets and apostles, and in subordination to them, and to their writings, others, whom I shall raise, from time to time, to feed my people.1:7,8 Observe the title given to Christ, O Thou whom my soul loveth. Those that do so, may come to him boldly, and may humbly plead with him. Is it with God's people a noon-time of outward troubles, inward conflicts? Christ has rest for them. Those whose souls love Jesus Christ, earnestly desire to share in the privileges of his flock. Turning aside from Christ is what gracious souls dread more than anything else. God is ready to answer prayer. Follow the track, ask for the good old way, observe the footsteps of the flock, look what has been the practice of godly people. Sit under the direction of good ministers; beside the tents of the under shepherds. Bring thy charge with thee, they shall all be welcome. It will be the earnest desire and prayer of the Christian, that God would so direct him in his worldly business, and so order his situation and employment, that he may have his Lord and Saviour always before him.The chorus, and not the king, are the speakers here. Their meaning seems to be: If thy beloved be indeed a shepherd, then seek him yonder among other shepherds, but if a king, thou wilt find him here in his royal dwelling. 8. If—she ought to have known (Joh 14:8, 9). The confession of her ignorance and blackness (So 1:5) leads Him to call her "fairest" (Mt 12:20). Her jealousy of letting even "His companions" take the place of Himself (So 1:7) led her too far. He directs her to follow them, as they follow Him (1Co 11:1; Heb 6:10, 12); to use ordinances and the ministry; where they are, He is (Jer 6:16; Mt 18:19, 20; Heb 10:25). Indulging in isolation is not the way to find Him. It was thus, literally, that Zipporah found her bridegroom (Ex 2:16). The bride unhesitatingly asks the watchmen afterwards (So 3:3).

kids—(Joh 21:15). Christ is to be found in active ministrations, as well as in prayer (Pr 11:25).

shepherds' tents—ministers in the sanctuary (Ps 84:1).

If thou know not, to wit, where I feed my sheep. For this is Christ’s answer to his spouse or people.

O thou fairest among women; though thou art black in thine own and others’ eyes, yet thou art very beautiful and amiable to me, as being washed white in my blood, and beautified with my gifts and graces.

Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock; observe and follow the paths which my sheep had trodden before thee, of my faithful servants, Abraham and others, whose examples are propounded for our imitation, Romans 4:12 Hebrews 6:12. For the church in all ages is one and the same, and there is but one way for the substance in which all the saints from the beginning to the end of the world do walk, Christ being yesterday, and to-day, and the same for ever, Hebrews 13:8, and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, Revelation 13:8.

Feed thy kids; take care for the feeding or teaching of all, and especially of young and weak Christians, who do and shall associate themselves to thee, whom the Holy Ghost calls lambs, John 21:15,16, as here kids. For although grown and wanton goats are commonly used in Scripture in a bad sense, yet the kids of the goats do sometimes note believers, as Isaiah 11:6, and kids were among those sacrifices which represented Christ, Hebrews 9:12-14. Beside the shepherds’ tents; under the conduct, and according to the instruction, of my faithful shepherds, or pastors; first and chiefly those who have gone before thee, the prophets and apostles, and after, and in subordination to them, and to their writings, others whom I shall raise from time to time to feed my people with wisdom and understanding. If thou know not,.... Or, "seeing thou knowest not" (m); the saints in this imperfect state know but in part, are ignorant of many things, and in some measure of themselves; for though they know much of the sinfulness and deceitfulness of their hearts, yet they know not all; and of their imperfection and weakness, yet not the whole of it; and some render the words, "if thou know not to thee", or, "for thyself", as Ainsworth; or "know not thyself" (n), as others; hence Ambrose (o) observes, that "nosce teipsum" was not originally from the Pythian oracle; Solomon had it before that, and he from Moses, Deuteronomy 4:9; Saints have not a perfect knowledge of Christ and his truths, and are sometimes at a loss to know where he is, his word is purely preached, and his ordinances faithfully administered;

O thou fairest among women; these are not the words of the daughters of Jerusalem, as some think, who were not capable of giving her the following advice and directions; but of Christ himself, to whom the church applied for it; who, though black in her own eyes, and in the eyes of others, yet was fair, surpassingly fair, fairer than all others in his eye, even notwithstanding her late sinfulness and negligence; which shows the invariableness of his love; who directs her as follows;

go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock; not "from the footsteps" (p); as if it was an exhortation to depart from false teachers, their doctrine and worship, and the abettors of them, she was tempted to turn aside to; but the "footsteps" are the rule and mark by which she was to go, and on which she was to keep her eye, and steer her course by, in seeking after Christ: for by "the flock" is meant the flock of Christ; and by the "footsteps" of it the ways and ordinances in which saints walk in obedience to Christ; and who are to be followed so far as they follow him; their steps are to be trod in; and this is the readiest and most likely way to find Christ, even where saints meet together, the word is preached, and ordinances administered;

and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents; the faithful ministers of the word, who are Christ's undershepherds, have their mission and commission from him, and are qualified by him to feed his flocks, and do feed them by the pure administration of the word and ordinances; and by the tents are meant the places of public worship, where they usually preach the Gospel, and administer ordinances. The allusion is to the tents of shepherds pitched for the convenience of feeding their flocks; and "by" or "near" (q) these the church is directed to "feed her kids", young converts weak in the faith; men of "little faith", as Aben Ezra interprets it; called "kids" or young goats, lascivious (r), and of an ill smell; because of sin in them, of an ill smell to themselves and others; and of whom the world have an ill opinion; and such on all accounts need encouragement from the church and ministers. It was common in the eastern countries, as Philo says (s) of the Arabs, not for men only to keep flocks, but women also, and young virgins; and not the common people only, but nobles; of women keeping flocks see Genesis 29:9; This verse and Sol 1:7 show this song to be a pastoral; since the bridegroom and bride, the principal persons in it, are represented in it as a shepherd and shepherdess.

(m) "quandoquidem", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (n) So the Septuagint, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions. (o) Hexaemeron. l. 6. c. 6. & in Psal. cxviii. octon. 2. p. 883. (p) So Junius & Tremellius. (q) "Juxta", V. L. Piscator, Michaelis; apud, Mercerus, Cocceius. (r) "Hoedi petulci", Virgil. Georgic. l. 4. v. 10. "Lasciva capella", Bucol. Eclog. 2. v. 64. Horat. Carmin. l. 2. Ode 15. v. 12. (s) De Vita Mosis, l. 1. p. 610. Vid. Joseph. Antiqu. l. 2. c. 11. s. 2.

{p} If thou knowest not, O thou fairest among women, go forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents.

(p) Christ speaks to his Church, bidding them that are ignorant to go to the pastors to learn.

8. by the footsteps of the flock] i.e. hard on the footsteps, in the very tracks of the sheep, until she reaches the place where the shepherds’ tents are set up, and there she will find him.Verse 8. - (Chorus of ladies.) If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents. That another voice is here introduced there can be no doubt; and as it is not like the voice of the bridegroom himself, which is heard in the next verse, we must suppose it to be the chorus of attendant ladies. Delitzsch suggests very plausibly that they are pleasantly chiding the simplicity of the country maiden, and telling her that, if she cannot understand her position, she had better return to her country life. In that case, "if thou know not" would mean - If thou canst not rise up to thy privilege; the knowledge referred to being general knowledge or wisdom. The delicate irony is well expressed, as in the reference to the kids - "feed thy kids," like a child as thou art. But there may be no intentional irony in the words; rather a playful and sympathetic response to the beautiful simplicity of the bride - If thou art waiting to be brought to thy beloved, if thou art seeking thy shepherd, thou most lovely woman, then go quietly on thy way, like a shepherdess tending the kids beside the shepherds' tents; follow the peaceful footsteps of the flock, and in due time the beloved one will appear. This is better than to suppose the ladies presuming to indulge in irony when they must know that Shulamith is the king's favourite. Besides, the first scene of the poem, which is a kind of introduction, thus ends appropriately with an invitation to peaceful waiting for love. We are prepared for the entrance of the beloved one. The spiritual meaning is simple and clear - Those that would be lifted up into the highest enjoyments of religion must not be impatient and doubt that the Lord will reveal himself, but go quietly and patiently on with the work of life, "in the footsteps of the flock," in fellowship with humble souls, and in the paths of peace, in the green pastures and beside the still waters, ready to do anything assigned them, and the time of rejoicing and rapture will come. From these words with which as a solo the first strophe begins:

Let him kiss me with kisses of his mouth,

We at once perceive that she who here speaks is only one of many among whom Solomon's kisses are distributed; for min is partitive, as e.g., Exodus 16:27 (cf. Jeremiah 48:32 and Isaiah 16:9), with the underlying phrase נשׁיקה נשׁק, osculum osculari equals figere, jungere, dare. Nashak properly means to join to each other and to join together, particularly mouth to mouth. פּיהוּ is the parallel form of פּיו, and is found in prose as well as in poetry; it is here preferred for the sake of the rhythm. Bttcher prefers, with Hitzig, ישׁקני ("let him give me to drink"); but "to give to drink with kisses" is an expression unsupported.

In line 2 the expression changes into an address:

For better is thy love than wine.

Instead of "thy love," the lxx render "thy breasts," for they had before them the word written defectively as in the traditional text, and read דּדּיך. Even granting that the dual dadayim or dadiym could be used in the sense of the Greek μαστοί (Revelation 1:13),

(Note: Vid., my Handsch. Funde, Heft 2((1862).)

of the breasts of a man (for which Isaiah 32:12, Targ., furnishes no sufficient authority); yet in the mouth of a woman it were unseemly, and also is itself absurd as the language of praise. But, on the other hand, that דּדיך is not the true reading ("for more lovely - thus he says to me - are," etc.), R. Ismael rightly says, in reply to R. Akiba, Aboda zara 29b, and refers to שׁמניך following (Sol 1:3), which requires the mas. for דדיך. Rightly the Gr. Venet. οἱ σοὶ ἔρωτες, for דּודים is related to אהבח, almost as ἔρως to ἀγάπη, Minne to Liebe. It is a plur. like חיּים, which, although a pluraletantum, is yet connected with the plur. of the pred. The verbal stem דוד is an abbreviated reduplicative stem (Ewald, 118. 1); the root דו appears to signify "to move by thrusts or pushes" (vid., under Psalm 42:5); of a fluid, "to cause to boil up," to which the word דּוּד, a kitchen-pot, is referred.

(Note: Yet it is a question whether דד, to love, and דד, the breast (Arab. thady, with a verb thadiyi, to be thoroughly wet), are not after their nearest origin such words of feeling, caressing, prattling, as the Arab. dad, sport (also dadad, the only Arab. word which consists of the same three letters); cf. Fr. dada, hobby-horse.)

It is the very same verbal stem from which דּיד (David), the beloved, and the name of the foundress of Carthage, דּידה ( equals דּידון) Minna, is derived. The adj. tov appears here and at 3a twice in its nearest primary meaning, denoting that which is pleasant to the taste and (thus particularly in Arab.) to the smell.

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